When relationships are undermined by resentment and unforgiveness, is family worth fighting for? Things I Never Told You (Tyndale House) is the latest novel from award-winning Christian author Beth K. Vogt. In this interview, the author shares the question that drove her to write the story, what readers can learn from the trials of the Thatcher family, and why it’s important to ask questions about faith…
For each book you write, you develop a “story question”–would you explain that process? What was the story question for Things I Never Told You?
A story question is a question of the heart and mind—one that your main characters are wrestling with throughout your book—and that your readers will try to answer, too. A story question is not easily answered with a yes or a no.
Developing a story question before I start writing a book helps me just like fuel for a car: it keeps my story going. So long as I remember what my story question is, I can stay focused and keep writing because I know the heart of my story. For Things I Never Told You, the story question is this: Is family always worth fighting for?
Things I Never Told You deals with death, delayed grief, strained family relationships, impending trauma, and resentment. When faced with similar challenges, what questions must we ask ourselves? Where do we turn for answers?
So often, our first reaction to pain or tragedy is to ask, “Why?” I’m learning to ask, “How?” How am I supposed to walk through this tragedy, this trauma, this tension, in a manner that is both honest and allows me to survive? How do I find God in this? How do I hang on to my values through this—and let others be who they are during this time?
When we face struggles of any kind, sometimes we are looking for answers—and sometimes we think we know the answers. Sometimes we are looking for an escape rather than God’s provision so that we can stand and face the problem.
What’s the role of faith in your novel?
Both faith and unbelief play a role in my novel because I find both in this world. At one time, I believed in God—in a distant “I know you’re out there, but let’s not ask too much of one another, okay?” kind of way.
Now, my relationship with God influences my entire life. But I know that not everyone believes as I do—and I try to weave that reality into my books.
Family is central to the plot of Things I Never Told You. Many readers will probably recognize some aspect of their own family life in the characters. What do you hope readers will take away from being immersed in the drama and imperfections of the Thatcher family?
I hope they fall in love with the Thatcher sisters—Payton, Pepper, Johanna, and Jillian—as well as the subplot characters. I hope they miss them when they finish reading the book. I hope they tell other people about them because, while Things I Never Told You is fiction, what I write about is real life. I hope readers wonder, “Would I do what Payton did? What Jillian did?” And maybe, just maybe, it changes their real-life relationships in some way.
Your novel gives readers permission to have questions about their faith. Why do you think this is important?
Living a life of faith is hard. Choosing to believe in God doesn’t mean that you don’t doubt–that life is always good, that you’re guaranteed a permanent residence on the sunny side of Easy Street. A few years ago, I sat across from a trusted friend and said, “I know all the right answers, but they’re not working anymore.” I still believed in God, but life was harder than I ever expected.
It’s important to know that God accepts us when we doubt. He is a big, big God—big enough to handle any and all of our questions.
Visit Beth K. Vogt’s author page here:
Things I Never Told You
Beth K. Vogt